‘Break’ vs. ‘Brake’: What’s the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on July 17, 2023

When words sound the same, it can be difficult to know which spelling to use. ‘Break’ vs ‘brake’ is one of these examples. When speaking, we say ‘break’ or ‘brake,’ not needing to know the difference between the two, but when writing, precision is important.

If you need a quick summary:

  • ‘Break’ can be used as a noun and verb with a range of meanings.
  • ‘Brake’ typically means slowing or stopping movement.

‘Break’ and ‘brake’ are both important words with meanings that need to be communicated clearly. Keep reading if you would like to learn the difference between the two and how to use them in your writing.

What is the Difference Between ‘Break’ and ‘Brake?’

‘Break’ and ‘brake’ are homophones which means they sound the same but are different words with different meanings spelled differently. These can be tricky for a lot of people, but sometimes thinking of the word in another tense can help you with spelling.

For example:

  • ‘Break,’ which can mean to shatter or divide, can also be used as broken.

This is a good indicator because if your sentence can change tenses and one can say:

“I am going to break that.” Or “That item is broken.”

  • Whereas ‘brake’ means to stop movement, the past tense is ‘braked.’

For this example, your sentences would look like this:

“He slammed on the ‘brake!” Or “He braked to avoid crashing.”

Definition of ‘Break': What Does it Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'break' as a noun or verb.

As a verb, it means:

  • To separate into parts with suddenness or violence
  • To cause a bone to separate into two or more pieces.
  • To fracture a bone
  • Violate or transgress.
  • To defeat utterly and end as an effective force
  • To bring it to a halt
  • To make known
  • To split into smaller units, parts, or processes
  • Exceed and surpass.
  • To find an explanation or solution for
  • To produce visibly
  • To come apart
  • To interrupt one’s activity or occupation for a brief period.
  • To alter sharply in tone, pitch, or intensity

As a noun, it means:

  • A gap or opening.
  • An interruption in the continuity
  • Dash or rush
  • A stroke of luck

Synonyms of ‘Break

  • Shatter
  • Smash
  • Crack
  • Snap
  • Fracture
  • Interruption
  • Gap
  • Discontinuation
  • Interval
  • Lull
  • Recess
  • Pause

Antonyms of ‘Break

  • Repair
  • Mend
  • Keep
  • Abide by
  • Attachment
  • Connection
  • Binding
  • Closure
  • Fix
  • Rebuild

Definition of ‘Brake': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘brake’ can be a noun or verb.

As a noun, it means:

  • A device for arresting or preventing a mechanism's motion, usually by friction.
  • Something used to slow down or stop movement or activity.

As a verb, it means:

  • To operate or manage a brake.
  • To slow or stop by or as if by a brake.

Synonyms of ‘Brake

  • Slow
  • Decelerate
  • Inhibit
  • Stop
  • Slacken
  • Hinder
  • Restrain

Antonyms of ‘Brake

  • Accelerate
  • Rush
  • Hasten
  • Hurry
  • Push
  • Drive

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Break’ and ‘Brake

It is important to learn how to pronounce words so that you can use English words both in writing but also when speaking. This will help make you confident in the usage of the word, no matter the circumstance. Although the meanings are different for these words, they are homophones, so they sound the same.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'break' and ‘brake’ is:


When to use ‘Break’ vs. ‘Brake

Here are examples of when to use ‘break’ and ‘brake.’

  • Use ‘break’ when writing about something falling apart.

In this example, you could write:

The door was ‘breaking’ after being left idle for so many years.

  • Use ‘break’ when discussing a lapse in time.

For example, one can say:

I am going to take a ‘break’ after this project to stretch my legs.

  • You can use ‘brake’ when writing about someone stopping.

As an example, someone may say:

I had to ‘brake’ around the curves of the mountain.

  • You can also use ‘brake’ talking about an object that would stop someone.

You may text someone:

She has not put her foot on the ‘brake’ one time, so we will be there soon.

Sample Sentences Using 'Break'

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘break’ when speaking and writing.

  • It feels like he is going to break up with me even though he has been with me through everything. I hope that we can work out our differences and remain a couple.
  • We announced that, as a family, we would be taking a break from social media to focus on spending more time present with each other. We labeled dinner time as family time.
  • After she decided to break down the wall of the kitchen, she couldn’t stop the demolition to make her kitchen an open concept with her living room.
  • Kit-Kats are an amazing candy because each person can break off a piece to be able to share equally without having to apologize for taking a bigger piece.
  • The agent was finally able to help someone make their big break into acting. Typically, the agent always found someone that had already been discovered.
  • When the guards go to sleep tonight, that is when we are going to make our break. Everyone needs to remember their role in the plan so that we are able to do it efficiently and quietly.

Sample Sentences Using 'Brake'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘brake’ when writing about stopping.

  • There are two main pedals in this car. There is the gas pedal to go and the brake pedal to stop.
  • I am going to gently pump the brakes so that we do not hydroplane in this storm. We need to slow down but also remain in control of the car to avoid the car being totaled.
  • They were able to modify the brakes for me because the range of motion in my hip is limited. I now have a pedal I can press on my steering wheel to stop.

Closing Words on ‘Break’ vs. ‘Brake

A review on ‘break’ or ‘brake’:

  • The words are homophones which means that they sound the same but are different.
  • ‘Break’ has many meanings, usually not pertaining to a vehicle.
  • ‘Brake’ means to slow down or stop with friction frequently to do with a vehicle.

As learned in this article, ‘break’ and ‘brake’ are both vital in a writer’s vocabulary, and learning about them allows you to switch between the two and stay comfortable. Hopefully, you won’t have to pump the ‘brakes’ on your writing now that you know how to take a ‘break’ from using the wrong homophone.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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